The last time Tyler McGuire stepped into the Circle, he challenged Swedish hard-hitter Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam for the vacant ONE Welterweight World Championship at ONE: WARRIOR’S DREAM in November 2018.
It was a competitive five-round battle, but in the waning moments of the fight, Kadestam dropped the American to the canvas with an overhand right, delivered the bout-ending knee strike to win the gold, and handed the U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant his first professional loss.
Regardless of the outcome, the American had known he would take an extended break following the World Title clash. The Sikjitsu representative had to fulfill his responsibilities as an active-duty military member, and he also needed to heal some previous injuries and give himself a mental reset from the daily grind of training.
“I went into that last fight knowing I would have a bit of a layoff. I just went all-in,” the 34-year-old recalls.
“Over the last year, I’ve been doing a lot of training for my job, just getting the things for what the military asks me to do.
“Also, I’ve been using this time to recover from some injuries. To this day, I haven’t actually watched the fight. I’ve been using this time to sharpen the edge, and I’m using this to take kind of a mental break, too. I was in camp for what felt like five to six straight years, so it’s nice to take a second to kind of reflect. That’s the big thing.”
Now, McGuire is all healed up and eager to make his ONE Championship return, and he believes a win or two would get him back into the ONE Welterweight World Title picture.
Though he would clearly love to have a rematch with Kadestam, the American is also interested in testing himself against some other big names.
One of the top athletes McGuire would love to face is his compatriot James Nakashima.
Nakashima is a perfect 12-0, possesses a dominant grappling repertoire, and frequently travels to Milan, Italy, to hone his striking alongside ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Champion Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan.
Though the staff sergeant is impressed with the Arizona resident’s skill set, he believes he could push Nakashima to his limits.
“I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves,” McGuire says. “If he and I got into the cage together, it would just become a battle of wills. We’re both iron-willed.
“From a speed and striking standpoint, I feel like I have the edge there. However, with his grappling, I feel like I would be a lot more defensive.
“Usually, I’m the one pressuring and going forward, but I know very well that I would have to deal with [his wrestling], like, ’Oh, man, now I’m being taken down,’ because he is such a high-level wrestler.
“But I do think I’m equipped to handle that. I train with some of the best grapplers in the world.”
Another welterweight McGuire would love to stand across the Circle from is Malaysian sensation Agilan “Alligator” Thani.
“It would be an honor to share the cage with him just because he’s such a competitor,” the Sikjitsu-trained athlete says.
“But his willingness to just get in there and his competitiveness, and his story of how he changed his life through mixed martial arts, that’s a dude you just can’t break. You’ve got to put him away.”
Stopping “Alligator” is no easy feat. The Kuala Lumpur native, who holds an 11-4 record, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt who continues to sharpen his striking and has continuously overcome tremendous adversity.
“That dude enjoys every minute of competing, and you have to put him away if you’re going to finish him because he loves mixed martial arts,” McGuire says.
“You’re going to have a fight every time with that dude, and that’s not even touching on his skill set. He’s just incredible on the ground, and his striking is evolving, too.”
The American also admires the Malaysian star outside of the Circle. ”He is one of the most genuine, kindest human beings that I’ve ever met,” he says of Thani. “And you would have no idea he’s a stone-cold killer in the cage.”
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While McGuire has his eye on two of the division’s promising young studs, he also would love the opportunity to face a true legend of the sport in Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama.
The Japanese star is a world-class judoka who has demonstrated his tremendous knockout power and his flair for submissions throughout the course of his 16-year career.
“It would be an honor just to share the cage with that dude,” McGuire says of the K-1 HERO’S Grand Prix Champion.
“The experience is the thing. There isn’t a situation that he hasn’t been in, and he has an answer for anything that is thrown at him. It’s a fight, so unfortunately, he’s not always on the right end of those things, but you just can’t speak to that experience.
“One of the overlooked things in mixed martial arts is how you handle your cardio when you’re in trouble. When you have that sort of experience and that stature, your ability to handle those situations and stay calm, that does wonders for your cardio. You’re not burning the energy that the average person is. That speaks volumes.”
ONE Welterweight World Champion Kiamrian “Brazen” Abbasov has the bullseye on his chest – and for good reason.
“That dude is just a stud. He’s an athlete, but he’s a student of the game. He’s a problem in every single area of mixed martial arts,” McGuire says.
“He ranks up there with all the top guys around the world, and that’s why I’m chomping at the bit.”
Going for a ONE World Championship not only places you against the best in the world, but it puts you under a microscope on the grandest stage. That stage is a place where the Sikjitsu representative says Abbasov performs at his best.
“When the lights are on, he’s a gamer. He relishes the spotlight. I would really like to share the spotlight with him,” McGuire continues.
“That pressure folds some people, but I think he loves it, and good for him. He’s worked hard, and he deserves it. It’s up to me to try and take it from him.”
The American is excited about the prospect of challenging for the gold again, and he thinks a matchup with the Kyrgyz dynamo would provide nonstop excitement due to their aggressive styles.
“He’s got a different mindset, too. He’s a killer. He’s a shark in the water, which I love,” McGuire says. “If you look at all my fights, I’m in their face. I’m not trying to run. I may dance to make them miss, but I’m pressuring forward, forward, forward. I want this fight.”